More than 22 million Americans filing for unemployment as of April 16, 2020 have heard this sentence since the COVID-19 pandemic started escalating in March 2020. The rise of companies and small businesses being forced to shut their doors temporarily or permanently has pushed unemployment rates through the roof.
This may feel like the rock bottom you never wanted to reach, but as someone who lost all of her financial success once before, let me remind you that there are things you can do to get out. You can reclaim your career, your sense of dignity and believe it or not, you can come out stronger than ever before.
When a major life change like this hits you upside the head, being able to focus on the right action steps can feel difficult. Your emotions are running wild, and the world feels all doom and gloom. But, with a little strategy and focus, there are steps you can take right now to stay afloat and prepare you for the future. Here is what to do if you recently lost your job.
1. Gather information
You walk away from the meeting where you were let go, and hop on a job-hunting site. Although this may feel like a no-brainer move to make, it could land you in a job that you don’t want. Resist the urge to be reactive, and consider taking a few days to gather yourself and build a plan.
Begin by reviewing your previous employment information. When you leave, ask for a copy of your original employment letter or agreement, and look to see if there were any non-compete agreements set in place that may disqualify you from applying for certain companies. Also, note that each state has different laws about noncompetes. For example, California pretty much won’t enforce them (but I’m no lawyer over here). These details will save you time down the road.
Put together a list of contacts in your network that you can reach out to. This could include previous colleagues, bosses, alumni, friends or networking connections. Build this list and then send each of them an email asking to have a virtual coffee or phone call. Historically, most jobs, upwards of 85%, are filled without even being posted online. So leverage your network to help you during this time of need, that is what they are there for after all. Also remember that with everyone in quarantine, it’s a great time to network. People are more available than usual, and more likely to say yes to a networking conversation.
Before your phone calls, spend some time getting clear on what skill set you bring to the table and which roles are most aligned with where you want to go.
2. File for unemployment.
If you lost your job due to COVID-19, you qualify for weekly unemployment payments from your state of employment. This isn’t only for corporate jobs, the CARE Act opened unemployment for gig workers, freelancers or other self-employed individuals. Get this process started right away so that you have some form of income to hold you over during the job hunt.
This paycheck may be what gives you the peace of mind to focus during interviews without the financial pressure showering down overhead.
3. Take care of your health.
Healthcare typically ends at the end of the month where your employment was terminated. Be sure to get your healthcare plans in place. In most cases, you can keep your employer’s plan for up to three years with the federal program COBRA, but since the premiums tend to be very high, it could be worth exploring other options. If this isn’t a path, consider purchasing insurance through the Affordable Care act. At a time when health is wildly important, you don’t want to skip out on being protected.
The reality is, a job loss takes an emotional and physical toll on individuals. Data has found the effects of job displacement take off an estimated 1-1.5 years of life for individuals over forty, with the effects of a layoff being stronger for those who expected to remain in the workforce longer.
When you’re living your best life, it’s easy to take care of yourself. When things are rough, falling into the trap of comfort food and cuddling up on the couch can become far too easy. Take care of yourself, and create a sense of routine in your life that fosters preventative wellness.
In a world of green juice, supplements and med spas, remember the basics are so underrated! Have you gotten enough rest? Are you drinking water? Have you eaten nutritious meals?
4. Don’t be afraid to get creative.
Depending on your financial state, you may have more or less leniency on what you can afford to do. This may look like taking a temporary job while you continue to apply for new jobs or it may look like building the side hustle you always wanted.
While it may feel hopeless to hear the news updates and ongoing crisis, recruiters are still hiring or looking to build relationships with individuals for the future. Evaluate your skill set and pursue opportunities at the companies that are still hiring. If you were a customer service representative for a travel agency, don’t be afraid to look for service jobs in the growing healthcare industry. If you were a teacher, consider building an online learning course for students that parents could purchase. The world is changing, and it is time for your thinking to change with it.
4. Brush up on your interview skills.
Take some time to review or edit your resume and cover letter. Be sure to gather any new or updated letters of recommendation. If you left your previous employer on good terms, ask for a letter from your boss. Although they had to let you go, it looks great to have their support post-employment.
- Practice and polish your answer to the most common interview question, “tell me about yourself.”
- Practice interviews over the phone and video with a friend, family member or career coach like myself. The job search process is evolving, and hiring is almost solely occurring online right now.
- Do your research on each company you are applying for. Know their background, culture and current state, since 47% of hiring managers report passing on candidates that don’t clearly know their company.
Getting laid off doesn’t feel good, but it doesn’t have to tarnish your inspiration in your career. Shift your perspective and view this as an opportunity to really showcase your potential and skills. Anyone can make lemonade when there are lemons in their kitchen, but are you willing to go out and find the lemons yourself?